Kanehsatake: 270 Years of Resistance (1993)


Kanehsatake: 270 Years of Resistance Storyline

This film documents the 1990 crisis when Native Americans of the Mohawk Nation blocked access to reserve land which was being appropriated against their will by the White community of Oka, Quebec, Canada. This film shows the initial incident and the resulting siege from the Mohawks’ point of view as an illustration of how this is simply a result of resistance to 270 years of European racism pushing them around and leading up to this confrontation.—Kenneth Chisholm

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Kanehsatake: 270 Years of Resistance Movie Reviews

A dark chapter in Canada’s history

It’s been almost 20 years since the Oka Crisis happened in the fall of 1990. It was in my opinion one of the most shameful incidents in Canada’s last 50 years. The incident took place when native land was taken by the white community to build a golf course. 270 years of repression finally came to a head that year.

The military is eventually called in to stop a native road block. What’s most interesting to me is not the repression by the military and police but the fact that everyone is caught up in the repression. The natives are of course repressed the most but the press and French Quebecois are also caught up in the repression when the military starts to control people’s freedom of movement.

It’s quite startling in these documentaries how quickly things escalate. In a matter of days you’re present in a military operation which controls where you go, who you can see, and whether you eat or not. Our so-called guaranteed freedoms are quickly dissolved when the government sees a challenge against its hegemony and power structure. These pockets of resistance are quickly be extinguished before they can spread and state power is questioned elsewhere. The troops on the front lines again don’t care and use the ever quotable line “We’re just following orders”.

The Oka Crisis was a global crisis of course. It’s not one which is limited to Canada. The native struggle is one being fought all over the world. The Palestinians in Israel, the aboriginals in Australia, Wounded Knee in the US, the list goes on.

A very good documentary about a dark period in Canada’s history. How quickly will we forget it? Thankfully, we have this National Film Board production which has interviews with the main parties as well as lots of footage from the actual incidents in 1990.


This is a pretty intense experience, especially if you know nothing about the subject matter. A community of Mohawks form a road block to prevent local land developers from turning their ancestral burial grounds into a golf course. Incredibly, the Canadian government sends in tanks and soldiers to break them up. Negotiations fail, and events escalate to an astonishing degree. I kept assuming that things couldn’t get any worse, and each time they they did. Eventually we have the Canadian Army beating up an old man and stabbing a teenage girl with a bayonet. It’s incredible to watch, given that Canada has a reputation as a warm and fuzzy nation.

I guess the only problem with this film is that it’s heavily slanted toward the Mohawks and their supporters. We rarely get to hear the alternative opinions from the other side, from the Quebecois who became so angry that they threw rocks at cars, and the soldiers who behaved with such brutality. Why was there so much anger? It would have been useful to know. And the filmmaker never explains who she is and why she is able to film everything on both sides of the supposedly impenetrable siege fence with good quality sound and images. I’m sure there are answers to these questions but the documentary’s naive use of an omniscient narrator avoids answering them.

Still, you come out of this shaking with anger and ashamed of the Canadian government. A ’10 years on’ documentary would be interesting.


I just came back from a screening of this film for a Canadian film class. Although one can have an understanding that terrible things happen all the time that you never hear about, it’s still very disturbing and upsetting to finally see these things for yourself. The standoff documented in this movie occurred only 13 years ago. I guess the liberal 90’s have created such a sugar coated view of Canada that the carnage of this movie seem surreal. The media was restricted access to record the events; citizens of the country were completely robbed of their basic rights; and a community sank to very low levels of existence.

This film serves as a reminder that one’s rights are not as infallible as you are led to believe. The soldiers were pawns throughout the entire ordeal, but that does not excuse their unnecessary acts of violence. Some of the town’s people behaved like savages (Throwing stones at Natives leaving the area). I can’t understand how people like that can live with themselves. All this over a golf course/ p***ing contest. Watch it if you get the chance, especially if you’re patriotic. I still think Canada is among the best places to live in the world. But injustice and idiocy are not easily avoided.